by Sam Hieb
Wilkins tried to explain to his fellow members of the City Council what was going on. He said, “I believe this is punitive because we have been a very progressive city.” He noted that Greensboro has the highest tax rate of any sizable city in North Carolina and had cut the budget for public safety.
Wilkins said, “We need to understand who is in charge. If we continue to be fiscally irresponsible what do you think is going to happen?”
Wilkins, unlike the other eight members of the City Council, seems to understand basic politics.
Wilkins is right when he says one reason this is coming down from the state is because the City Council is seen as way too liberal, and this new seven-district system should increase the chances that more conservatives get elected to the council. But another is that the City Council, to outsiders, is seen as completely dysfunctional, and the idea is that any change would be an improvement.
It’s interesting that this question of state power is being raised here in Gboro while down the road the City of Wilson is anxiously waiting the FCC’s vote on preempting N.C.’s law restricting on municipal broadband.
You can talk about not-elected federal government officials wielding their power over state law all you want, but the answer will be that the state shouldn’t have passed a (what I don’t think is an unreasonable) in the first place.
Check out New York University of Law’s report (PDF) on the debate surrounding municipal broadband. The report profiles Wilson and Chattanooga, which joined in on the petition to the FCC to overturn Tennessee’s law—the report gives plenty of reason to be skeptical about Chattanooga’s broadband system, even though it’s making a profit line.
Report’s bottom line, from the executive summary:
State-level policy makers have important roles to play in the GONs context. The costs associated with building and maintaining a GON are significant, which raises the risk of financial default by local government, the diversion of resources from other priorities, or other negative outcomes (e.g., credit downgrades). States, which maintain ultimate responsibility for the financial health of the cities and towns in their borders, have strong interests in overseeing the process by which GONs proposals are vetted and approved. Well-established legal precedent supports such a close relationship between states and their political subdivisions.
Could that possibly be the case here in Gboro?